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top view of red and white onions in basket plate with sliced white one in bowl and black pepper seeds on red background
Southern Factor

Southern Factor

When to Plant Onions in Texas: A Southerner’s Guide to Growing the Perfect Crop

A Texan’s Love Affair with Onions

As a Texan, I’ve been growing onions for as long as I can remember. My mom taught me everything I know about gardening, and there’s just something special about the smell of freshly pulled onions from the good Texas soil. I’ve got a few stories and tips to share that’ll make your mouth water and your green thumb itch to get started!

My First Onion Harvest: A Tale of Triumph and Tears

I’ll never forget the summer of my first onion harvest. It was quite hot, and I had been working tirelessly in my backyard garden. I remember pulling up those beautiful, plump bulbs and feeling so proud. When I brought them inside, my husband couldn’t believe how good they smelled – and tasted, too!

Know Your Onions: Texas Varieties

Before we dive into when to plant onions in Texas, it’s essential to know which varieties grow best in our great state. Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Texas 1015 Super Sweet: This mild, sweet onion is perfect for salads and sandwiches.
  2. Southern Belle Red: A red onion with a zesty flavor, ideal for grilling or adding some color to your dishes.
  3. White Bermuda: A classic white onion with a crisp texture and mild taste, perfect for cooking or pickling.

Short-Day vs. Long-Day Onions: What’s the Difference?

Onions are classified as either short-day or long-day varieties, depending on the amount of daylight they need to grow. In Texas, we’re all about the short-day onions, which require 10-12 hours of daylight. Long-day onions, on the other hand, need 14-16 hours of daylight, making them better suited for northern states.

Redx onions grown in texas in a bowl

Timing is Everything: When to Plant Onions in Texas

Now that we’ve got our onion varieties sorted, let’s talk about when to plant onions in Texas. Timing is crucial to ensure a bountiful harvest, and Texas provides unique growing conditions that you’ll need to consider.

Fall Planting: Set the Stage for Spring Harvest

In Texas, we’re blessed with mild winters, making it possible to plant onions in the fall. By planting in October or November, you’ll give your onions a head start, allowing them to develop a robust root system before the spring growing season kicks in. This leads to bigger, better onions come harvest time.

Tips for Fall Planting

  • Choose a well-draining soil with plenty of organic matter.
  • Space onion sets (small bulbs) or transplants about 4 inches apart.
  • Plant onions about 1 inch deep.
  • Water consistently to keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Spring Planting: A Second Chance for Onion Success

If you missed the fall planting window, don’t fret! You can still plant onions in Texas during late winter or early spring – think late January to early March. Just keep in mind that spring-planted onions may be smaller than those planted in the fall.

Tips for Spring Planting

  • Follow the same soil preparation and planting tips as for fall planting.
  • Keep an eye on the weather, and be prepared to protect your onions from late-season frosts.
  • As temperatures rise, keep your onions well-watered, especially during dry spells.

Caring for Your Onions: Tips for a Healthy Crop

Now that you know when to plant onions in Texas, let’s talk about how to care for them throughout the growing season.

Fertilizing: Feed Your Onions Well

Onions are heavy feeders, meaning they require a good amount of nutrients to grow big and strong. To keep your onions happy and healthy, follow these fertilizing tips:

  • Before planting, mix a balanced, slow-release fertilizer into the soil.
  • Apply additional fertilizer every 3-4 weeks throughout the growing season, being careful not to over-fertilize.
  • Use a liquid fertilizer for a quick nutrient boost if your onions appear to be struggling.

Watering: Keep Your Onions Hydrated

Proper watering is essential for onion growth. Here’s how to ensure your onions get the moisture they need:

  • Water onions consistently, aiming for about 1 inch of water per week.
  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to deliver water directly to the root zone, which helps conserve water and reduce the risk of disease.
  • Monitor soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule based on rainfall and temperature.

Weeding: Give Your Onions Some Breathing Room

Weeds compete with your onions for water, nutrients, and sunlight, so it’s important to keep your onion patch weed-free. Try these weeding strategies:

  • Hand-pull weeds when they’re small to avoid disturbing onion roots.
  • Use a hoe or cultivator to remove larger weeds, being careful not to damage your onions.
  • Apply mulch around your onion plants to suppress weed growth and conserve moisture.

Pest and Disease Control: Protect Your Onions from Unwanted Guests

Like all plants, onions can fall victim to pests and diseases. Keep an eye out for the following common onion problems and take action to keep your crop healthy:

  • Thrips: Tiny insects that can cause damage to onion leaves. Control them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Onion maggots: Larvae that feed on onion roots, causing plants to yellow and wilt. Use floating row covers to protect your onions or apply beneficial nematodes to the soil.
  • Pink root: A fungal disease that causes onion roots to turn pink and rot. Plant resistant varieties and practice crop rotation to prevent the spread of this disease.

Harvest Time: Reap the Rewards of Your Hard Work

Knowing when to harvest your onions is just as important as knowing when to plant them. Here’s how to tell when your Texas onions are ready to be picked:

  • Onion tops will begin to yellow and fall over when they’re mature. This usually happens about 100-120 days after planting, depending on the variety.
  • Once the tops have fallen, wait a few days before harvesting to allow the onions to cure in the ground.
  • Use a garden fork to gently lift the onions from the soil, being careful not to damage the bulbs.
  • Allow the harvested onions to air-dry in a well-ventilated area for 2-3 weeks before storing them in a cool, dry place.

A Personal Note: Why Growing Onions in Texas is Worth the Effort

As a Texan, I know firsthand that there’s something incredibly satisfying about growing your own onions. Not only do they taste better than store-bought, but there’s also a sense of pride that comes from nurturing a plant from seed to harvest. Plus, there’s nothing like the smell of freshly pulled onions from your own garden.

So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting, I hope this guide has given you the information you need to grow the perfect crop of onions in Texas. With a little love, care, and the right timing, you’ll be enjoying delicious, homegrown onions in no time. Happy gardening, y’all!

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